Karen Torjesen, Ph.D. is the Margo L. Goldsmith Professor of Women’s Studies in Religion at Claremont Graduate University where she has helped establish graduate programs in Women’s Studies in Religion and Applied Women’s Studies. For ten years she served as Dean of the School of Religion, partnering with religious communities to create programs in comparative religion.
She has published extensively on women, gender and sexuality within Christianity. Her research interests include constructions of gender and sexuality in early Christianity, authority and institutionalization in the early churches, hermeneutics and rhetoric in late antiquity, and comparative study of Greek and Latin patristic traditions.
Prof. Karen Torjesen has concluded her 2 years visit as Fulbright Scholar at the Kenyatta University Department of Gender and Development Studies (GDS). The purpose of her visit was to foster understanding across cultures and create links between academic institutions in the US and Kenya, during her stay at KU she conducted research taught a course on “Transnational Gender, Activism and Research” that was adapted from a CGU course and revised by the Gender Department. Asked about her experience, Prof Torjesen commented. “I learned so much from my students; it turned out to be one of the most aspects of my Fulbright experience.”
Her research which focused on Gender, Religion and Culture and HIV Stigma was adopted by the department and a collective approach adopted, the faculty organized four research teams based on their specializations: Religion & Culture; Gender & Sexuality; Health & Medical Management; and Social, Economic and Political Aspects of HIV Stigma. Under this model the research was conducted by four teams made up of a team leader, a co-team leader and two research assistants. This arrangement allowed for graduate students to gain research experience. The GDS faculty further proposed to expand the research to four different counties to deal with the regional and ethnic differences that shape attitudes toward HIV/Aids. The research was completed in April 2016, a report prepared and is awaiting publication.
International institutional collaborations were further strengthened in the summer of 2016 when faculty and students from three universities--KU, CGU, and Santa Clara University--collaborated to organize a symposium, “Weaving Just Peace: African Women’s Transformative Leadership in Contexts of Transition” in August 2016. Thirty participants from a range of countries and disciplines joined the discussion of women’s roles in peace making. Several of the graduates of CGU’s Women’s Studies in Religion program assisted in organizing the conference. It was evident that the collaborations with KU were producing opportunities for CGU students to deepen their understanding of Africa.
Prof. Torjesen credited her experience with the Gender Department for preparing her for the next collaborative project with KU; particularly impressing were the ways in which the faculty structured the research, strategies for data collection, approaches to ethnicity and gender which were invaluable in developing a proposal for assessing Gender Based Violence. The most recent research collaboration between KU’s GDS Department and CGU’s Center for Evaluation is an assessment of the Tamar Campaign in the DRC funded by Norwegian Church Aid which uses a Bible study process to break the silence around gender based violence and to create local interventions to mitigate it. The KU team is being spearheaded by Prof. Grace Wamue Ngare.